Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention in Newly Single Older Women: A Forgotten Health Promotion Need

Carol Idso

Disclosures

Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2009;5(6):440-446. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Newly single older women routinely have not been considered at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Divorce and separation have put many women back into the dating scene and into new sexual partner relationships. Recent studies have shown an increase in HPV, HSV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea infections in this population. Advanced practice nurses have a unique opportunity to anticipate needs and inform older women about safe sex, STIs and transmission, communication skills with new partners, as well as help them safely navigate through a turbulent time. A thorough analysis and review of this topic, with theoretical support, highlights this recently identified vulnerable population and identifies safe sex education strategies and interventions to increase health-promoting behaviors.

Introduction

Newly single older women routinely have not been considered at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STI). Most STI studies are done on young people, who carry the highest risk. A cultural emphasis on sexuality in youth and the implication that older persons are not concerned about sexuality or the potential health risks does not prepare older persons or their health care providers for clinical communication about sexual issues.[1] Advanced practice nurse (APN) providers have a unique opportunity to anticipate needs and to inform the older woman about safe sex, STIs and transmission, communications skills with new partners, and to help them safely navigate through a turbulent time period. A thorough analysis and review of this topic, with theoretical support, will highlight a recently identified vulnerable population of newly single older women and will identify safer sex education strategies and interventions to increase health promoting behaviors.

Age offers no protection against STIs. The state of Washington has identified a need for STI prevention education in persons over age 50, as 1.3% of STIs were reported in persons age 50 to 80. STIs included in the study were syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, the first clinical episode of genital herpes, and nongonococcal urethritis reported from 1992 to 1998. The United States is not alone in this phenomenon. In the United Kingdom, sexual risk-taking behavior is not confined to young people, as the increase of STIs in older persons is on the rise. The increase in rates in the United Kingdom between 1996 and 2003 was greater in those aged 45 years and older than people under age 45.[2]

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